A year ago, Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, named artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and conversational systems (CAI) three of the top strategic tech trends for 2017.

In May this year, SAP launched the SAP Leonardo Machine Learning portfolio at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando, Florida and thus demonstrated that it’s on the pulse of innovation. Today, it is about time to sum up the latest developments and give an outlook on the potential of intelligent technologies.

Trend No. 1: Machine Learning Platforms

Deep learning, neural networks, and natural language processing elevated machine learning to new levels. Thanks to mature machine learning algorithms, higher processing power, and the availability of huge data sets, machines are becoming intelligent and able to process unstructured data like pictures, text, or spoken language – often even on a superhuman level. Additionally, deep learning is now stable enough to potentially establish machine learning as a standard commodity across businesses worldwide. Those who are interested in tailor-made and customized solutions require a machine learning platform like the SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation to combine ready-to-use services to create their own intelligent applications.

Trend No. 2: Intelligent Applications

Intelligent apps automate routine tasks that take time from value-adding activities and can provide precious insights into structured and unstructured enterprise data. This helps companies to take better business decisions and increase productivity in several lines of business like Finance, HR, Sales and Service and more. For enterprises who lack in-house machine learning expertise, SAP makes the adaption of machine learning extremely simple by integrating intelligent applications and services in the existing standard product portfolio. Today, SAP delivers intelligent applications that allow, for example, to build a self-driven customer service to enhance customer experience, automate financial services by matching incoming bank statements to open receivables, or help marketing executives maximize sponsorship return on investment (ROI).

Trend No. 3: Conversational Systems

Thanks to great strides in natural language processing, Conversational AI has fundamentally changed how we interact with computers and electronic devices in recent years. Today, millions of people use intelligent interfaces to satisfy their daily consumer demands. They serve users with music, help to plan vacations, order pizza and much more. We are on the cusp of a world where conversational assistants will be retrievable at any time and place – also at work. These capabilities will connect data, processes, applications, devices, and people and will build the fundament for a new digital experience at the workplace. SAP CoPilot is SAP’s digital assistant and bot integration hub for the enterprise. Together with the SAP Leonardo Conversational AI Foundation – a platform which will enable organizations to build and enhance conversational capabilities like chatbots and digital assistants, across enterprise applications – SAP CoPilot offers natural language services that allow a humanized interaction with devices and serves our vision of the intelligent enterprise.  

What Will the Future Bring?

Technologies augmenting the human potential at work are no dreams of the future anymore. But how will they evolve and what will the trends in 2018 look like?

Markus Noga, head of Machine Learning at SAP, predicts, “Some of these technologies might be about to reach maturity, but there is still a great deal of innovation potential especially in the enterprise context.”

According to Gartner, 59% of organizations are still gathering information to start building an AI strategy for their organization – a huge competitive advantage in 2018 for those who have already started to adopt AI in their systems.

“Next year, I am convinced, that more and more companies will leave the concept stages and really begin to apply machine learning”, says Noga. “The hype around deep learning will flatten out as it becomes a commodity, but the efficiency and robustness of the underlying models will be the differentiator and therefore a relevant issue for enterprises to address in the upcoming year.”

For Gartner, a rock-solid machine learning foundation, intelligent apps and conversational platforms will make the difference between profit and loss for companies in the race to digital transformation in 2018. Platforms and solutions will evolve significantly handling increasingly complex tasks. Further, Gartner predicts that over the next years, every application will contain AI, creating an intelligent layer between employees and enterprise systems.

Overall, technology will become even more human-centric and will increase transparency between people, organizations, and things. In business and private life, augmented reality, virtual reality, or brain-computer interfaces will create immersive experiences beyond virtual assistants and chatbots.

Moreover, business will experience a shift from stand-alone intelligent objects to swarm AI – an approach that goes back to the behavior of animals that amplify their group intelligence to solve problems or make decisions. Swarm AI is the self-organization of systems for collective decentralized behavior that enables human swarms by bringing information of diverse groups into a single emergent intelligence. In an enterprise context, Swarm AI helps to improve logistics or transportation, HR, or the obtaining of customer feedback, e.g. by eradicating the influence of preceding valuations on the voter.

“All of these AI developments will have an impact on the way enterprises are doing business not only on an operational level. I expect the emergence of new, AI-driven business models and a transition of innovation and research expertise from universities to industries,” says Noga.

SAP’s ambitious machine learning road map indicates that it will take off in 2018. Next year, the main focus will remain on the enablement of the intelligent enterprise through intelligent applications and the growth of SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation. Further, the adaption of machine learning in standard SAP products like SAP S/4HANA – making enterprise resource planning intelligent – and the general accessibility of conversational services will be continued. Moreover, cutting-edge technologies like swarm intelligence and immersive experience technologies might become more and more relevant for businesses as well.